One of the most serious secondary effects that diabetes has on the body is how it impacts your eyes. The loss of vision can be gradual until the damage in the eye is severe. There is no cure for diabetic retinopathy, but frequent eye examinations can detect early signs of damage. Treatment can then be started to slow down the vision loss. Here is what you need to know about this eye disease and how to prevent it from stealing your vision.
Diabetes and the Blood Vessels in Your Eyes
Diabetes affects the blood vessels in the eye. When the blood vessels are on the surface of the retina, your vision can be impacted. There are two forms of diabetic retinopathy. Each one can produce subtle symptoms, that if not curbed, will have a permanent impact on your vision.
This form of retinopathy is due to new, weak blood vessels developing on the retina. These vessels allow fluid to leak out onto the surface of the eye. When the fluid accumulates sufficiently, it blocks the light reaching the retina, causing blurry eyesight. Eventually, you'll see dark patches in your vision.
This form develops other blood vessels that create scar tissue on the retina. The scar tissue pulls on the retina. If the retina becomes pulled away from the back of the eye, blindness occurs.
Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore
If you experience any of the following symptoms, see your eye care specialist for a diabetic eye exam.
- inability to focus on objects
- dark shadows in your vision
- floating gray patches across your vision
- aching in your eye
Treating Diabetic Retinopathy
Any treatment is focused on slowing down the impact of the disease on your vision. Early diagnosis is important to minimize the damage to your eyesight. Your ophthalmologist may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:
Medication - Eye drops or injections directly into the eye can slow down the growth of the weak blood vessels. If this treatment is effective for you, you may need to have this done periodically to control the development of the weak vessels.
Surgery - Some of the gel inside of the eyeball can be removed to reduce the amount of pressure exerted on the retina by the leaking blood vessels.
Laser surgery - A tiny laser can be focused on the weak blood vessels to shrink them and dry up some of the fluid that has leaked out of them. Fluid that has already dried on the surface of the eye cannot be removed, resulting in a permanent change in your vision in that area.
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